Ashley shuttle van

(L-R) Marc Butler, clinical outreach representative; Jennifer Aguglia, Ashley IOP clinical director; Stephen DalNogare, IOP clinical aide and van driver; Rich Przywara, senior vice president of operations; and Shane Burke, patient services manager, pose Tuesday with the new van that will pick up Ashley Addiction Treatment patients around Elkton.

ELKTON — For those struggling to overcome a substance use addiction, there are often many obstacles in the path to sobriety: money, insurance, availability of treatment beds, the right program to work, support of family or friends, and more.

One of the most prevalent, however, is transportation.

Without a reliable way to attend self-help meetings or outpatient programs, progress toward recovery can often be impeded.

In order to erase that obstacle, Ashley Addiction Treatment is preparing to launch a new transportation program Monday, Oct. 22, at its nearly 2-year-old intensive outpatient program (IOP) at Union Hospital’s office building.

“People living in recovery houses have only just begun their journey of recovery, but too often obstacles stand in their way of getting the services they need that enable them to reach their goals. We see this firsthand and we know this kind of treatment is critically important,” said Rebecca Flood, Ashley president and CEO, in a statement announcing the new program. “By providing direct transportation to the hospital in Elkton, we can have tremendous impact on more people needing help.”

With the opioid crisis stretching far away from population centers, Richard Przywara, Ashley senior vice president of operations, said that the nonprofit recognized that opening IOPs all over the countryside wasn’t going to be feasible.

“So we flipped the problem and said, ‘How can we get this patient out there to our program here?” he said.

Przywara said that currently Ashley’s transportation program is largely relegated to picking up patients from airports to bring them to their Havre de Grace inpatient program or shuttling those with needs around the campus.

“But we realized that at the sober homes in the area, transportation is as much a roadblock as insurance,” he said. “And this is a roadblock that we can easily remove.”

Przywara said that Ashley officials went to and observed a treatment center in New Jersey that began a transportation program for exactly the same reason.

“(There) the sober houses were around but a lot of the people either didn’t have cars or lost their license, so they started doing the same thing,” he said. “We realized that we have pretty much the same configuration here.”

In a pilot program funded for a full year, Ashley expects to get at least 12 more people each day to the Elkton office with the shuttle van, with hopes of nearly tripling that number, according to officials.

“That’s like opening another sober house,” Przywara added, noting the managers of the sober homes around Elkton were very excited. “We think we’re going to have very positive results.”

While the van will start by running once a day to the Solutions Houses Inc., Limitless Sober Living and Monarch House sober homes in Elkton and North East, Przywara hopes that demand will add more runs and more homes to be served. Ashley officials have reached out to operators of other sober living homes in the county.

“All the research is showing that the longer you’re in a program, the better your chances for real recovery are,” he said. “That’s what our goal is.”

Ashley is so committed to this transportation program that it’s already devising plans to roll it out to its IOP in Bel Air as well, although it may wait for Ashley’s impending relocation to the new University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health’s crisis center.

With an initial investment into purchasing the van and ongoing costs for gas and hiring a driver, Przywara said that Ashley expects to break even on the program with current reimbursement rates.

“Ashley has a charitable mission, where last year we gave away $3.6 million in patient services,” he said. “We really see this van as an extension of our charitable work. We’re not in it to make a profit so that we all get a bonus check, we’re here to get people better.”

To learn more about the new transportation program, visit www.ashleytreatment.org/programs/outpatient/

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